Lit Force Atheists?

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Jedi Ben, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Jul 19, 1999
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    Something I've been wondering for a while now....

    The saying "the Force will be with you" could be read as meaning that the Force is of a benevolent nature, at least until you factor in the dark side.

    While the existence of the Force can be easily proven empirically in SW, be that being gently levitated by Luke or strangled by Vader, what of the attitude to the Force?

    Why did, from a certain point of view, did the Force let Alderaan get blown up, Ithor splatted, Sernpidal moon-bombed and a tidal wave of death across the galaxy? Are there stories where there are Force sceptics and/or Force atheists? Han certainly starts off as this but changes. Lando? Harder to say.

    I'm thinking of stuff like:

    "The Force will be with you"
    "Oh it will? Ah no, don't think so - have you looked at what's going on in this galaxy?"

    Or:

    "Oh but a pilot used the Force to blow up the Death Star!"
    "Ah, 1 man, 1 shot , million kills, yeah that's benevolence right there."

    (Incidentally, I do have an escape clause for this line of thought but want to see what others make of it first.)
  2. Son of a Bith Force Ghost

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    Feb 28, 2013
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    Do even the Jedi themselves think of the Force as something that "lets" or "prevents" things from happening, the way some here in the real world interpret God as a personal being that takes an active role in the world?

    I'm not sure. I think the way the Force is represented (in the films and EU both) is problematic. In the OT, it is an "energy field." In the PT, Qui-Gon says that the midichlorians "continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force." Did he believe that the Force literally had a "will," or is this just a simple way of describing a very complicated process? I really don't know.

    Is the Force an impersonal energy field that permeates the universe, like the Hindu concept of Nirguna Brahman? An impersonal aspect of a personal deity, like the Christian Holy Spirit? A personal diety like the Judeo-Christian Yahweh? Is it all of these things?

    I think that, in-universe and out, this is open to interpretation. If the SW universe were a real place, I think there would be people with all of these interpretations, and with positive and negative feelings about Force dogma and tradition.

    I'm sure the Jedi themselves have debated the nature of the Force.

    It's an interesting question. I've always been curious about Han's experience of the Force, and how his attitudes must have changed over time.
    Last edited by Son of a Bith, Apr 13, 2013
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  3. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    Sep 2, 2012
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    Fyor Rodan seemed pretty skeptical about The Force in general- and very snide about Luke's willingness to go off and train as a Jedi, in the middle of a war (his comments are in the NJO series).

    Then you've got guys like Admiral Motti, who sneer about Vader's "sorcerer's ways" to his face.
  4. Son of a Bith Force Ghost

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    Hence the term, "doubting Motti" :)
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  5. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Mar 4, 2011
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    I agree.

    Personally the whole "will of the Force" idea bothers me along with the entire concept of destiny and the "Chosen One;" Anakin being conceived by the Force for a purpose.

    I like much better the OT idea of an energy field and a Jedi's strength flowing through the Force, with the Jedi being more in tune with it than the average person and learning how to use its power for good.

    But I'm also with Han in ANH in that there is no all-powerful Force controlling anyone's destiny--in universe or out--and it's all a bunch of simple tricks and nonsense. As far as Han's attitude changing; I haven't read all the EU books that he's been in, but I have yet to see anything indicating that he suddenly became a believer in the Force as an all-powerful being that has a will. Example: his reaction to Chewie's death; so far I haven't seen anything regarding his being angry at the Force or surrendering to "the will of the Force," which are a few reactions I've seen in religious people here when a death happens. Instead he's blaming himself and Anakin for not being able to stop it.

    With Alderaan, Obi-Wan felt "a great disturbance in the Force;" that to me indicates there is no "will of the Force" that allowed Tarkin to blow up Alderaan. There were not enough Jedi around at that time to know if any would have had an alternate viewpoint than the one Obi-Wan took.
    Last edited by anakinfansince1983, Apr 13, 2013
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  6. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    I am playing a SW Saga RPG with my friends, and my character was a human noble who doesn't believe in the Force. Ironically, he ended up meeting a Jedi Master who survived the Purge and is now undertaking training to become a Jedi.

    While non-canon, the idea for the character was based on Imperial-era propaganda that erased most knowledge people had of the Jedi. Or at least ,that's our original understanding of it: that Jedi were framed to be tricksters and charlatans and the like. It's a little odd since with the timeline changes, the Clone Wars were within living memory of many people during the OT period but the Jedi were always distant during the Republic: not many saw them, and during the war, they were celebrity figures of sorts until they got turned into warmongers (see: the protests during the last season of TCW). So I can see how they can be vilified and framed as fakers.
  7. kataja Force Ghost

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    May 4, 2007
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    I think the initial nature of the Force we're presented (in the OT) is pretty distincly impersonal. Thsi is one of the reason's SW has been accepted to world wide - not conflicting with religions but more seen as an accknowledgement there is 'something out there'. Even the sentence "will of the Force" can be interpreted like the Force has more of a strive than a personal "will."

    The question about Force atheists is very interesting, though. Even at its peak, the Old Jedi Order was only a few thousand Knights, scattered over a huge galaxy - most people would not see any empirical proof of the existence of the Force. And it seems to me, that after the rise of the Empire, atheism boomed, uncontradicted. In educated families, and among those who could tell first hand experences about Jedi, faith in the Force would remain, of course, but that would not be the case 'out' in the galaxy. I've always seen Luke's faith as pretty unique, his background taken into consideration.
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  8. Son of a Bith Force Ghost

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    Feb 28, 2013
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    Good point regarding the Han quote. Interesting that Han said he doesn't believe that there's an all-powerful Force that controls his destiny. At that point Han might have acknowledged that the Jedi have access to some kind of energy, but denied that it was all-powerful and controlling everything that happens. To this point, I agree that Han probably retained this belief (disbelief?).

    It might be interesting to note that Obi-Wan's lesson was to let the force "guide" one's actions, not "control" one's actions.
    Last edited by Son of a Bith, Apr 13, 2013
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  9. Son of a Bith Force Ghost

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    This is my interpretation as well.
  10. Son of a Bith Force Ghost

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    more food for thought:

    In the SW universe, natural telepathy and telekensis exist, I believe, at least in the EU.

    This could affect one's belief in the Jedi's access to some omnipresent energy field.
  11. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

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    Jul 2, 2004
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    And are promptly choked by this Force they don't believe in.

    "I do not... akkk... believe this is... urkkk... happening!"
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  12. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Despite the thread title, it seems like the issue Ben's raising is less whether people believe the Force exists, than whether people would believe it had good intentions. For myself, that's why I've always tended to minimize interpretations of the Force as an active entity--I think we hear a lot about prophecies and "the will of the Force" because of the characters we spend the most time with, but the average guy (who's willing to admit it's real) probably just sees it as a power source, not inherently benevolent or malevolent. Similar to how the world media follows the actions of the Pope, without necessarily endorsing Catholicism--the conversation is about real-world activity, not "how does God feel about this?"
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Apr 13, 2013
  13. Dawud786 Force Ghost

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    Dec 28, 2006
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    I always look to the ANH novelization. It's based on some earlier GL work, but indicates that the Force is more than what we are told simply is an "energy field" in movie(Obi-Wan says it's more than merely an energy field).... plus, Obi-Wan's answer to Luke's question "so the Force controls your actions" was basically "yes and no." It's kind of vague, and GL has made some kind of attempt at developing a deeper metaphysics by adding terms like "Cosmic Force" or "Unifying Force" and "Living Force" and actually defining those aspects of the Force in The Making of Episode I. The Living Force is definitely that impersonal energy field... but the Cosmic/Unifying Force is perhaps something more.
  14. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Yeah, it's probably fair to say atheism isn't the right term, maybe rationalism? I still consider Fyor Rodan to be the epitome of poor, bureaucratic management but that he would be inclined to see the Force as counting for nothing in terms of decision-making is plausible.
  15. Parnesius Jedi Grand Master

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    I may well be misremembering but I seem to recall Sano Sauro acknowledging the existence of Force powers while rejecting any notion of the Force possessing a spiritual dimension; his position was, I think, taken seriously by many outside the Order.

    As to the will of the Force and its benevolence or otherwise, my own inclination - and I tend to think this is broadly true of at least some characters in-universe - it to regard it as being akin to "the ineffable Plan" in Good Omens:

    The Force does not play dice with the universe: it plays an ineffable game of its own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players*, to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

    * i.e. everybody
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  16. Dawud786 Force Ghost

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    Skepticism, perhaps?
  17. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Well the Living Force RPG's hevily imply the Force or at least the Dark side has some form of sentience as it wen't out of it's way to Destroy the Darkstaff
  18. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Yeah, that might fit better Dawud.
  19. Red.Two Jedi Master

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    Nov 25, 2012
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    I think the problem is your choice of the word "atheist." An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in the existence of a supreme being or beings. The Force is not a personified entity seen as sitting above people and controlling or even observing their existences. The Force clearly exists within the Star Wars universe, so you can't disbelieve it. At best, you can be agnostic about it, thinking that anything force-users do can be explained by something else, though good luck rationalizing shooting lightning out of your fingers, shoving someone across a room without touching them, or making someone do what you want them to simply by speaking to them. I wouldn't call disbelievers agnostics, I'd call them willfully ignorant, or possibly Galactic Hipsters.
  20. Starkeiller Force Ghost

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    Dec 5, 2004
    star 4
    Precisely. "Atheism" is lack of belief in a deity. "Theos" -- that's "god". There ain't no gods in Star Wars.

    However, people who do not believe in the Force (doubting Mottis sounds good ;) ) have a very strong point and are not by necessity willfully ignorant, as all the more fanciful effects of the Force can be replicated by technology.
  21. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    There are quacks in real life who have no spiritual belief but believe telekinesis is possible, so I'm sure there would be the same sort in the GFFA who shrug when you mention Force Lightning and just say it must be the result of genetic mutations that have enabled a sensitivty to electromagnetism or some other pseudoscientific bull.
    Last edited by Zorrixor, Apr 13, 2013
  22. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    At the same time though, if someone tells you they;ve had a vision of X and they need to do Y and they're a Jedi, what do you do?

    I figure there will be some who believe it out-right but there must be others who are sceptical - certainly Rodan fits that aspect.
  23. Gorefiend Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 2004
    star 5
    One of the Boba Fett comics actually has a guy set himself up as Sith Warlord by faking things like force lightning.
    Repulsors ;)

    You ever heard of the Zeltrons and Falleen? :)
    I shall call them Skeptics. Obi-Wan of all people actually even acknowledges this in one of the Republic comics, when another Jedi (might actually have be Young Vader, I need to find the comic first) questions why the local humans seem to hate the Jedi. Obi-Wan answers that there are so few Jedi in the galaxy that most people will never see one and what they hear about them will be little more than myths and stories.
    So who can blame them for not really believing in such things when they seem so far beyond anything normal and even if they should encounter Jedi, assuming that all things in the galaxy are the “will of the force” will be even more outright absurd to them.
  24. Starkeiller Force Ghost

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    Jeanne Cavelos has written a book with the wonderful title The Science of Star Wars: An Astrophysicist's Independent Examination of Space Travel, Aliens, Planets, and Robots as Portrayed in the Star Wars Films and Books. Her efforts to rationalize the Force in the relevant chapter could exist in-universe.

    I'd say that a lower class poorly (or un-)educated individual would accept it unquestioningly, whereas someone more traveled and with a good education would evaluate the situation carefully. The Jedi seem to be folk heroes for many in the SW galaxy, but there also seem to be many skeptics.
    Last edited by Starkeiller, Apr 13, 2013
  25. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

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    Disagree. "I call it luck" clearly shows disbelief. There are plenty of ways to find tech-based ways behind the Force. Consider the whole Quixotic Jedi archetype in WEG, or that SW Tales comic about that guy who pretended to be a Jedi and did a bunch of stuff without actually having Force powers. I never read that particular comic -- to my regret -- but I can see someone faking it, as well as adopting Jedi mannerisms.

    Hell, consider Trioculus and his "lightning" :p

    It's very easy to take an omniscient POV and say obviously the Force exists, but how often do people get to see it at work? During the Imperial period, large numbers of people were led to believe that Jedi were a bunch of quacks and tricksters.

    So while the OP seems to be talking about people who disbelieve that the Force has a "will" or "good intentions," I feel like actual atheism could and did exist regarding the Force. Moreover, as someone points out -- it's possible to believe in Jedi powers as a mutation or some other talent without buying into the religious aspects (which could also tie into the OP's point).